Monday, February 26, 2007


Nelson is a pretty mellow place to live in and the weather is good. Riding my bike into Downtown Nelson today, I realized that there's a lot of pollution. Biking parallel with the beautiful aqua Tasman Sea, I take in a lot of exhaust. Nelson being a small town, I'm actually biking on Highway 6, which is used by the big cargo trucks all day long.

In the other direction, towards home, the sea breeze is against you, and there are bike trails away from the highway traffic. A very good bike ride from Nelson to Richmond (Railway reserve) is an excellent bike trail. On a major portion of it, it is accessible only to bikers and pedestrians. Nelson is a very biker friendly place. Even the children bike to school - girls and boys.

Everyday I hear this noise. It's 24/7 or until the windows are closed. Since we arrived, I haven't even seen one, but heard them all the time buzzing in the trees. I would wonder, "How many are in there?" Today, while biking home, one smashed into my chest. It was about 3 inches long and big. The previous night, I saw one in the house. ( the bathroom window will now be closed in the night). Some cidada fun facts below.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Restaurant Review: Waterfront

Mari and I have started a "lunch date" tradition. One day in a week (typically thursday), we'll go out and have lunch somewhere in town. So far we've been to Waterfront, which is the sister restaurant to The Smokehouse Cafe (which we've also visited and have pretty good memories of, nothing outstanding but quite solid) in Mapua. It is pretty much across from the Boatshed (a restaurant no longer frequented by us!) on Wakefield Quay. The views from the dining room overlook Tasman Bay and the Nelson Sailing Club.

They have a pretty good lunch menu and on our two visits we've tried four different dishes. All of them were quite solid and well worth it for the price. On our first visit I tried the chili calamari with potatoes and a summer salad and Mari had the moroccan spiced turbot with a summer salad. The turbot was pan fried and quite delicious, the calamari was tender but not as spicy as I expected it to be. On our next visit Mari tried the nelson bay scallops with fries and a salad and I got a steak and mushrooms with fries. The fries were thick cut and not very good. The scallops were quite excellent with a nice white sauce. The steak and mushrooms were ok, I'm not a major meat eater so can't really evaluate steak very well. I suspect we'll try a few other places the next few weeks before going back there. Its close, quick, good and reasonably priced. What more can I ask?

Accountability in the non-profit world ....

A bit of deviation from my normal Life in NZ blog. Recently became aware of a pretty decent wiki/blog site called Givewell. This came up primarily from an article on the NTEN blog. Weirdly enough, this article is no longer present on the blog. I felt strongly enough to make a small comment on that article.

I have some experience on all sides of the non-profit equation, i.e. employee, funder and fundee. I was an employee of a non-profit ( at that time run by Tides, now part of Network for Good). My two years out there were an eye opening experience and I came away with a sad feeling about how inefficient the whole foundation funding process is and to some extent how big a role "connections" play in funding non-profits. I also concluded that some non-profit organizations are not very efficient, not willing to change and improve their business process and reduce expenses.

We started CiviCRM to provide a good base of open source tools for the non-profit sector. I've been doing this for a little more than two years now, and it has been a pretty good experience. We seem to be filling good niche and are getting used by quite a few orgs in the US and worldwide. You can read more about CiviCRM in our year end report, our website and our blog. We have been reluctant to go down the foundation funding road primarily due to the long road involved but have been lucky enough to have been funded by a good foundation.

We also do some funding in our personal life for a few organizations. Over a period of time, we've started focusing on funding organizations working directly in India. We have experienced quite a few of the things that the Givewell folks mention in their wiki and their blog. Its good to see an organization focus on the non-profit world and publicly analyze and compare them in a transparent manner. There is definitely a need for this, and I hope more foundations do the same and collaborate and publish their findings to improve the sector

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The kids in Nelson ...

I recently took the kids to Edna Turner library in Nelson. Its the library for Nelson region and its quite big and very nice. They have a pretty big kids area, a coloring desk and chairs, bean bags and lots of other activities and puzzles to keep kids of all ages entertained and occupied. I had not been to the kids part of the library before (mari and cecile had done the honors previously) and it was quite a pleasant surprise. They have a pretty good collection of books and we checked out a few to keep the kids occupied. Their current favorite books from the library are: Good night, Pillow Fight and You are not my real mother. They also like the Madeline and Olivia series of books quite a bit. The house we are currently renting has a few small model cars. Both the kids are fascinated with the cars and spend quite some time playing with them.

Maya likes us to spend time with her in school so she can show us all her work. The school out here is much more relaxed and open. The kids can take and share books and toys during circle time, parents can visit and spend time with their kids, hours are quite flexible and casual. Mari spent an hour with Maya at school last week, and this week Maya wanted me to show up. It was interesting to see the group of three to five year olds playing together and individually. All of the kids were focused and doing their work, spending time thinking about what to do next etc. The afternoon class is much smaller than the morning class and so they do get more attention if needed. From the looks of it, the kids did not need more attention. All of them were self reliant and quite self absorbed with their projects. PJ was fast asleep for most of my visit, need to visit when she is awake the next time. I suspect Mari and I will try to visit and spend time at school at least once a week.

Dave and Bob gave the kids two george bears on their visit in December. Maya has named PJ's one eyed bear Sausalito and has named her bear Yoghurt. Not sure how she picked those names, but they are here to stay :)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Trips in the near future ...

We pretty much have a stream of visitors from the US and India starting late march all the way into mid may. We've started planning trips and will attempt to visit places that we have not seen before. Some of the places on our list include

  • Wellington: Its relatively close, but the drive, the wait and the ferry ride make it a 5-6 hour trip. However the ferry ride is guaranteed to entertain the kids and give them something to talk about. We'll probably do this over the next few weekends by ourselves. It has the added bonus of having the IceBreaker factory outlet in the vicinity (or so i've heard)
  • Northland and the Bay of Islands: We are planning to go here with Phu, Tamar, Chi, Jason and Grace after Easter. Their visit coincides with the kids easter break, so I suspect it will be one long road trip
  • Golden Bay: We'd like to revisit this place and spend a few days there. Most likely we'll go there with Jill and Marley and my brother Steve
  • Nelson Lakes: Definitely want to spend a few days there hiking and tramping. Hopefully the weather will still be good when Mari's parents visit and we'll rent a bach there. We'll probably do a day trip or overnite with JD and Lisa there
  • Dunedin / Otaga Peninsula / Invercargill: I suspect we'll do this with Stephen, Ivy, Freia and Reia
  • New Plymouth and Stewart Island are on the list. Not figured out when we will be able to make it to either place. Maybe with Mari and/or my parents
  • Fiji, Cook islands, Vanatu: too many places, too little time :(

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Weekend update ..

Another week flies by, followed closely by another equally hectic weekend. Its good to get back on a nice schedule and see the kids get comfortable with their surroundings and consider this their new home :)

Mari and the kids went to the Friday market at Founders primarily to get some delicous bread and baked goods from the awesome Founders bakery. The market is worth a visit just for the delicious ciabatta, whole wheat loaf and canale. Saturday morning, mari took off a bit early to go biking while I fed the kids and got them ready for the day. We met mari later on at Morrison Cafe and headed to the Saturday Market for our weekly produce / fruit / meat shopping. We really enjoy the market and are starting to build a good relationship with some of the suppliers. I also realized that our egg supplier also supplies free range chicken (but does not have a sign for that, since she has limited quantity!). We also frequent a great crepe place for crepes (Kaffey's). Some of our other favorite stalls include the my pie lady, the mussel man, the organic salmon lady and the cheese folks.

The saturday market includes quite a few craft stalls. We bought a very cute drawing table of the right size with two chairs from a local craftsman called Bruce Monro (s_bmonro at hyper dot net dot nz). Maya and PJ have been doing a lot of chalk drawing on it outside while we cook in the kitchen (and can keep them in the corner of our eye)

On Sunday we went to the Brightwater Wine, Food and Music festival. It was definitely the happening place in Nelson that day and drew a large crowd. It was a bit like the Saturday market with wineries in a much larger space. The music was quite good, and there were a few activities for the kids (bouncy tent, face painting, tractor ride, ice cream). We spent a good three hours there before heading home to rest and get ready for the week ahead

I made a pretty awesome chicken adobo and brown rice for dinner Sunday nite. The kids loved it and chowed down quite a bit. I put in a few lobo modification (fried onions and potatoes to improve on the recipe. We also used a few things that mari's mom puts in here adobo (star anise, brown sugar). Monday nite, i attempted to make, picnic fried chicken and was not too happy with the results. Not sure if i'll attempt that dish again or what went wrong :(

Friday, February 16, 2007


After moving 3 times, it feels great to finally take all of or mostly all of our things from our suitcases. There's still some boxes in the basement but it's mostly winter clothes and there's no need because summer has arrived. There's still the occasional rain shower, but it's not freezing outside and it's a sure bet that the sun will peek through before it gets dark.

I've realized that I really like having fruit trees close by. It's so fun to pick a fruit and eat it whenever you want. There are two plum trees and one peach tree. We've gone plum picking 3 or 4 times from the backyard. Maya and PJ enjoy the fruit picking. Before plucking it from the tree we'll look at it, make sure it's the right color and then pluck it into the bucket.

The sun is awfully hot here so much so that if we're at Tahunanui Beach, Maya and PJ ask for ice-cream. They're regulars at the ice-cream truck. Maya once said, "If it's hot we have to eat ice-cream." The search is still on for good ice cream.

I cooked a lot of things from my Tartine cook book when we first arrived because I love to eat sweets. After being here for awhile, I found the yummy stuff. There's a baker at the founder's market that bakes canele. Other things that I've been eating: chocolate panetoni, olli balls (deep fried muffin), savory muffins, and cakes from the swedish bakery in Richmond.

I've stopped getting bit so much by the sand fly. Or maybe I've stopped itching after it bites.

Settling down ..

Life is back to normal and we seem to have settled down in a pretty good routine. The kids seem to be exhausted at the end of each day, so we let them sleep in till 7:30 am. Feed them breakfast, pack their lunch on monday and fridays, and then I drop them off at school by 8:50 am.

Its kinda boring working from home all day, so then I walk over to my alternate favorite coffee shop in Richmond, Ambrosia, which also has wireless access. Spend anywhere from an hour to three hours working from my cafe office (am a regular there and have my own reserved table and power outlet in one corner) before I head home and have lunch (typically leftovers from the previous nite dinner) with mari.

Mari picks the kids up at 3:00 pm (also spending some time at Ambrosia prior to picking them up). They hang out at the school or neighbourhood playground before I meet them at either the swimming pool or climbing gym or beach at 4:00 pm. All of us hang out, with mari and i getting in our workout while the kids are playing / splashing / climbing. Back home by 6:00 pm, we cook a pretty good meal. The menu for this week included spinach and mushroom gratin, lamb shank stew, whole salmon with wild rice, moroccan pie (from MyPie), and sushu from Sushi House. We are eating quite nicely out here :). PJ is well on her way to becoming a true foodie. She has started eating Sushi and chows down quite a few fruits these days (a sharp contrast from a year ago!). I've been tempting the kids with various lamb dishes. Its takes quite a few attempts but now maya and PJ seem to enjoy lamb. Yippee!, that means i can buy and cook more lamb (which is quite delicious out here!)

By 7:30 pm the kids are tired and exhausted. So we brush their teeth, read them a lot of bedtime stories and put them to sleep. Kinda nice to read to both of them at the same time. PJ sleeps in the top bunk bed while maya is queen on the lower bed.

The interactions between the two kids is getting quite interesting. They seem to play really well with each other, but then have a big fight periodically. PJ seems to be getting into her terrible two's quite nicely and is starting to rebel a bit more. Seems like we are in for some interesting times ..

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Furnished vacation home and car for one lucky family ..

We are scheduled to be in the US from June 20 - July 10. We'd like to offer use of the house, car, bikes and kids stuff to any folks who might be interested. We need to know the family either directly or via a 1 hop relationship

If you are interested or know of someone who might be interested, please send us email. Please feel free to forward this message. Fares to NZ are quite cheap that time of the year (its winter in June, but the winters are pretty similar to SF winters). You can fly to NZ and Australia via Air New Zealand (pretty good service) for less than USD 1000

Book your tickets to NZ now ...

before its too late :). We already have confirmed visitors from late March (Jill and Marley) to late April (Phu, Tamar, Jason and Grace). Mari's and my parents will be visiting us sometime between late April and June

So if you would like to come out and hang around with the kids and us, better send us email soon. We will make sure you see the diverse beauty and splendor of NZ and sample the fine regional cuisine, local fine and superb coffee along with fun places for the kids and adults :)

And we are back with broadband access...

Nice to have reliable DSL access after close to 2 weeks of flaky/no-broadband /dial-up. Telecom NZ did come through quite nicely and flipped the switch when they said they would. Its another matter as to why it took them so long to do it, but thats in the past :)

Other than not being able to post on my personal and work blogs periodically (or too frequently as some of you might comment), life without DSL was quite productive. I managed to get a lot of work done since IM / Skype / IRC / email interruptions were quite minimal. I suspect i'll actually disconnect from the net on daily basis for 4 hours or so and see the results. We also spent way more time at Richmond Mall than we ever have, since there was a great coffee shop, Ambrosia, with good broadband access. Its close to the kids school which makes it even more convenient. Might be a regular part of our life. Have a flat white while responding to email :)

We'll upload a few more pictures of our adventures in NZ over the next day or so for the visually inclined :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The move is done ...

Seems like it has taken forever to get to our current state. It has indeed taken a while (9 weeks), but we are now settling down, and unpacking some of the things we got with us. Unrolled the sleeping bags and thermarest (giving them room to breathe etc)

The kids had Monday and Tuesday off before the new quarter starts. We are still getting used to the NZ school and holiday schedule and messed up once again and drove them to school on a holiday! Mari has now attached the calendar to the refrigerator and hopefully we wont make this mistake again (we made the same mistake a week ago on NZ day!)

Dial-up at home is a bit painful. Luckily there are cafes with fast internet access near Maya's school (at the happening Richmond Mall). Paul Roper also stepped in and got me access at NMIT (you can read more about it at my work blog)

The house is nice and spacious. So please do come and visit :). The views of the Tasman Bay, Takaka Hill, Kahurangi range etc are quite amazing. We'll post pictures on flickr once we get broadband at home.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

And we move again ..

For the second weekend in a row, we are packing our bags and moving houses. Being a nomad is not a lot of fun. Moving is painful :( Luckily for us, this is the last move for the next few months and we hope to settle in, unpack etc at our wonderful new long term rental place in Tahunanui, Nelson. We've got a fair amount of space (4 bedrooms), so we can definitely accomodate quite a few visitors. (the bottleneck is the lone bathroom, but thats pretty common in NZ!)

Telecom NZ is not the greatest phone/dsl provider. We tried to get the phone in our name in advance but this proved to be a bit too difficult. Mari finally managed to convince them to do so on Friday. We wanted to move our broadband connection from the old place to the new place, but they wont be able to get to it till the 8th of Feb. Yikes, we will be spending a fair amount of time in cafes over the next few days to get work done :( Not sure why it takes a company that long to flip a switch. Telecom had the unique distinction of winning the Supreme Ass Award for its Xtra Broadband Service. Hopefully our issues will be sorted out pretty soon ....

Comparing Nelson, SF and Mumbai

I was checking our new address in Nelson and was playing with the Hybrid view of Google maps. Here is the amazing mountains and terrain around Nelson, contrast this to the same view at similar magnification of our location in San Francisco, and for kicks, here's Mumbai, where I grew up. Three places in three different continents with widely different terrain ...

Nelson and NZ are beginning to grow on me and I'm appreciating the closeness to nature and a simpler more laid back lifestyle much more :)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Update for Week 9

Sorry for the minimal updates. We had to find a place for a week before we moved into our long term rental (in Tahunanui). We found a pretty nice place at the Brook Valley end of Nelson, the only drawback being internet connectivity is not great. The owners (Jeff and Rangi) are not in town this week, so they have allowed us to use the main house during the day. This helps a lot since we can get a fair amount of work done from there.

The wireless situation is quite wierd, it works sometimes for hours at a stretch, at other times, especially at nite, it flakes every few minutes. I do not understand this very well, and am kinda lost in how to potentially fix it. No big deal, since we just have two more nights here. The area however is quite scenic and very different from the other places we've stayed at. Its further away from town and more in the mountains / valleys.

In other news, I managed to reinjure my knee and was in pretty bad shape for a few days. Things are looking much better and the knee seems to be recovering quite quickly. Have hurt it quite a few times in Nelson, since the pavement a bit uneven compounded with me being a clumsy walker results in a bad knee :(

The kids are having a blast with their current schedule. They get up, have breakfast, goto school and do some fun activity (themes of this week: pirate day, dinosaur day, cook day, swimming day). Mari picks them up at 1:00 and takes them to a playground for some time before driving them back home. PJ typically takes a nap for an hour or so. At 3:30 or so, we head to the beach or the pool and play for a couple of hours before we come home, cook, eat, play and goto sleep. Joys of being a kid :)

They are pretty exhausted by 7:30 pm or so. PJ more so than Maya. However trying to put them to sleep at the same time results in a few challenges since they talk to each other and refuse to sleep. We've been tweaking the process and trying to figure out a more optimal sleeping pattern and rhythm. They love to share the room, read books together, wake up together whispering to each other etc. Kinda nice to see them sharing a room, since Maya was quite reluctant to share her room in SF.